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A life in the day of a Charity Conference

9.31 and the conference has started
Oh no – I’ve left my notes at home.  Half the speakers haven’t turned up and I’m going to have to fill in for them.  Why is there nobody in the audience?   And what is that ringing in my ears?

Aha, the alarm clock – I must stop having that dream!  Today’s the day – hope it goes well.

charity conference

Two hours to go
Final check before I leave: – Notes for my presentation (most important!)   – Tick – iPad to keep an eye on our #CharityConf twitter feed – Tick –  ‘Keep calm’ pills – Oh no, where have I put those! – Tap dancing shoes (don’t ask – borrowed from a friend, not mine!) – Tick.  And off to Kingsgate I go.  Great venue for the conference – easy to get to, loads of parking and purpose built rooms.

1 hour to go
The technology will work…….yes it will……..yeeees it WILL.   There it is – all is well again.

Sound check: what are you meant to say when doing a sound test?  “Testing, testing” just doesn’t seem to do it, so I start to tell a joke about the accountant who went on holiday to Africa……   Oh, for some reason the sound has just been turned off – the technical guy says, ‘no need to carry on, its all working fine’.

Colleagues arrive.  Badges are lined up – delegates are starting to arrive.  How come they’re here so early?  Obviously they couldn’t wait to come and see us.

30 minutes to go
Delegates are piling in now.  It’s good to see some friendly faces.  Not so good to see the unfriendly ones – oh, no that’s my fellow partners!  It would be really good to be see all the speakers faces……

15 minutes to go
It would be really, really good, to see all the speakers faces……..

5 minutes to go
Speakers – all present & correct!

Time to go!  A friend of mine uses a phrase “herding cats” – I now know what he means.  How do you get 200 delegates to move from the entrance lobby drinking coffee into the main meeting room, without being rude.  Don’t they understand, we have to start on time!  OK, nothing else for it – “Just move, OK!”

0 minutes to go
And we’re off.  There is a buzz of excitement in the room – oh no, there’s a wasp on the stage.  I welcome everyone to Rawlinsons 4th annual charity conference – some people have been to every one – incredible – gluttons for punishment. We review Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – and I congratulate Kingsgate on meeting the most fundamental need, that Maslow didn’t originally include – “Free Wifi”.  Phew, thankfully that got a laugh – one down, a few more to go and the twitter feed comes alive.

The presentations
Our presentations begin with Michael O’Toole the Crown Commissioner, focussing on what is happening nationally in the world of charities and in particular, the commissioning of services by Government and the opportunities and challenges that arise from that for local charities.

We hear from Leonie McCarthy of PCVS on some of the many challenges faced by local charities through the changing landscape in the sector.  We all recognise that local knowledge, local trust and the passion Peterborough have for Peterborough plays a huge part in the success of local charities.

Peterborough Community Wellbeing Partnership is officially launched as part of the city’s response to those challenges, helping charities work together and use each other’s expertise in larger contracts.

Then, another launch: Adrian Chapman from the Council launches The Peterborough Compact, renewing the Council’s commitment for better partnership working with the Voluntary and Community Sector.  The questions suggest that there are different views on the best approach, and Adrian Chapman invites the audience to bombard the Council with ideas.

Coffee break
We’ve made it to the first break – only 2 minutes over time – that’s not bad.

The breakout sessions
Either side of lunch (which was very nice by the way) – the tweeters speak from the various topics:

“Intellectual property: Be proud of your brand / logo and treat it with respect”
“Peterborough Dementia Action Alliance encourage you to sign up as a friend at”
“Getting noticed online: if you haven’t yet got a website then get started by blogging.” (yes, OK I’m doing it..…)
“Does your charity do what it says on the tin?   Does your culture meet your charitable objectives?”
“If you’ve recently become a new trustee, see the Trustee Handbook on the Charities Commission website”
“1 in 4 children are living in poverty in Peterborough and only 43 % of 16 – 24 year olds are in full time employment”
“Interesting insights from Colin Crowley regarding VAT liability of selling dog-skin hats” (wait a minute, that wasn’t one of the topics!)
“Local VCSE’s understand local issues best”
“We value the importance of volunteers.  Despite changes to services, they will continue to be crucial to the third sector”

The home run
We start back with a video about the German Coastguard – absolutely nothing to do with charities – but it did get a laugh! Thanks for the tweet “How does @mark_rawlinsons make charity commission update sound so interesting?”.  An update on recent guidance and some horror stories when things go wrong.  And thankfully people were still awake for the final question of the day: “what is 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+0” – and no, it isn’t 7!

The end
3 minutes late – not bad. Time to say goodbye, time to pack up, time to go, time to have a lie down!

“An energetic buzz today and some good new contacts made, thank you @RawlinsonsUK”